The VTB United Youth League wraps up April 4-6 in St. Petersburg with the Final Eight. Eight teams will compete for the trophy.
The tournament is single elimination, leaving no margin for error.
Regular season: 32-8
Quarterfinal opponent: Nizhny Novgorod-2
The reigning Youth League champions finished first in the regular season after a two-year break thanks to a 32-8 record. That was enough to finish above everyone else in the standings.
Maxim Sharafan’s team also led the league in multiple statistical categories: points (85.1), points allowed (67.7), point differential (17.4), rebounds (45.5), three-point percentage (32.9%) and many others.
Potential star: Alexander Khomenko
The quiet, self-assured 20-year-old guard debuted this season for CSKA in the VTB United League and EuroLeague and also earned an invite to the national team training camp. At the Final Eight, Alexander Khomenko has a real chance to be the MVP as he runs the offense for the top title contender.
Complete roster: Maxim Karvanen, Mikhail Andrianov, Alexander Khomenko, Vasily Posrednikov, Danila Pokhodyaev, Kirill Mikheev, Daniil Kochergin, Alexander Ershov, Filipp Gafurov, Viktor Lakhin, Yuri Umrikhin, Makar Konovalov
Regular season: 30-10
Quarterfinal opponent: Avtodor-2
Djordje Varagich’s men ranked among the best teams all season and ultimately finished with a 30-10 record and in 2nd place, a new club record!
Five players from Lokomotiv-Kuban-2’s roster–Alexander Shcherbenev, Ilya Platonov, Zakhar Vedishchev, Kirill Popov and Denis Velichkin–also spent time with the senior team in the VTB United League.
Potential star: Kirill Popov
The versatile big man spent 14 games with the youth team and also debuted in the VTB United League. Don’t be surprised if Lokomotiv-Kuban-2 decides to run most of its offense through the big man. He’s averaging 20.3 points and 9.6 rebounds this season.
Complete roster: Denis Velichkin, Ilya Saltykov, Alexander Shcherbenev, Artem Lukashenko, Ilya Platonov, Denis Myshalov, Kirill Popov, Sergei Dolinin, Andrei Martyuk, Zakhar Vedishchev, Vladislav Emchenko, Pavel Kryashchenko
Regular season: 29-11
Quarterfinal opponent: Zenit-2
Four losses in March derailed Khimki-2’s hopes of a top-two finish. Nonetheless, Khimki-2 has a dangerous squad and poses problems for any opponent in the Youth League.
Despite significant changes from last season, new coach Alexander Gerasimov was able to implement an efficient system, as evidenced by the League-best 19 assists per game.
Potential star: Elkhan Akhmedov
The 180-cm point guard was invited to the Youth All-Star Game last season and played a key role for Khimki-2 at the Final Eight in Samara. Now Elkhan Akhmedov has even more freedom. Many of his former teammates are no longer on the youth roster due to age and will not play in the postseason this year.
Complete roster: Kirill Studenikin, Ivan Evstigneev, Elkhan Akhmedov, Maxim Barashkov, Gleb Suvorov, Daniil Medyanikov, Dmitry Karbusov, Dmitry Kadoshnikov, Vladislav Odinokov, Sergei Klyuev, Alexander Nechai, Ilya Sorokin
Regular season: 24-16
Quarterfinal opponent: Samara-2
UNICS-2 matched last season’s result, finishing 4th in the regular season for the second-straight year.
The main reason for the team’s success was excellent defense. UNICS-2 gave up only 69.4 points per game, second behind CSKA-Junior.
Potential star: Artem Ivanov
The versatile guard executes coach Andrei Kibenko’s game plan on the court. Artem Ivanov was the team leader in assists (4.5) and second in points (12.5) and rebounds (4.6). He’s likely to be the biggest star for UNICS-2 at the Final Eight.
Complete roster: Denis Barannikov, Denis Kapustin, Kirill Polonin, Semen Pinaev, Petr Mitrofanov, Denis Velishaev, Dmitry Mileshin, Ivan Tarasenko, Stanislav Sevostyanov, Vadim Kudinov, Igor Sizikov, Georgy Korotyaev
Regular season: 22-18
Quarterfinal opponent: UNICS-2
Samara spent most of the season chasing the lead pack, but ultimately finished in 5th place with a 22-18 record. This season’s semifinal could feature two finalists from a year ago: CSKA-Junior and Samara-2.
The Army Men and Samara split the season series, 2-2, with both teams winning twice at home.
Potential star: Dmitry Khaldeev
Last year’s regular season MVP is healthy and one of the biggest stars in the Youth League. Dmitry Khaldeev was named to the All-League team and will now try to win his first championship.
Complete roster: Kirill Frolov, Semen Shevkoplyas, Dmitry Gusenkov, Valery Kukavsky, Dmitry Khaldeev, Dmitry Mayorov, Danila Chikarev, Ramil Badaev, Viktor Nesterov, Filipp Stoiko, Mikhail Ermilov, Oleg Cherepanov
Regular season: 21-19
Quarterfinal opponent: Khimki-2
Zenit-2 was in the middle of the pack throughout the season, finishing with a 21-19 record. But don’t underestimate St. Petersburg at the Final Eight with the tournament being held in their hometown!
Zenit-2 has also been very impressive at home, posting a 14-6 record in the northern capital, among the best marks in the League.
Potential star: Vladislav Sharapov
The 19-year-old center put up ridiculous numbers in the regular season: 18.7 points, 14.6 rebounds and a new Youth League record for rebounds in a game (25). The Sharapov X-factor plus home-court advantage could make Zenit-2 a dangerous quarterfinal opponent.
Complete roster: Vladimir Fomenko, Nikita Soldatov, Roman Maslov, Bronislav Minzhulin, Kirill Shilin, Konstantin Shevchuk, Lev Bykov, Semen Krasilshchikov, Yakov Yakovlev, Vladislav Sharapov, Artem Banchikov, Valery Lopatin
Regular season: 21-19
Quarterfinal opponent: Lokomotiv-Kuban-2
Avtodor-2 is back in the playoffs after two years. Even though Saratov only finished in 7th place, they could be the biggest surprise of the tournament. Avtodor-2 is bringing all of its young stars to St. Petersburg.
Three years ago, Saratov also went all-out for the Final Eight, but ended up losing by a single basket, falling to CSKA-2 in the championship game by one point.
Potential star: Nikita Mikhailovsky
Russia’s biggest rising star will play in the Final Eight! Last year, Nikita Mikhailovsky led Avtodor to a championship in the DYuBL (defeating Loko, its quarterfinal opponent this season, in the final). Now it will try to repeat the feat with its youth roster. The 18-year-old forward is guaranteed to make an impact.
Complete roster: Egor Bestuzhev, Sergei Rozhkov, Alexander Baryshev, Vadim Kharisov, Alexander Petenev, Nikita Mikhailovsky, Anton Kvitkovskikh, Ilya Karpenko, Alexander Kurov, Vadim Novikovsky
Regular season: 16-24
Quarterfinal opponent: CSKA-Junior
Nizhny Novgorod clinched a spot in the playoffs at Spartak-2’s expense at the very end of the regular season to finish in 8th place for the second straight season.
Roman Gorelovsky’s men should not be underestimated. Besides playing with a lot of heart, the squad is dangerous from beyond the arc and at the free-throw line. If the underdogs get hot against CSKA-Junior, an upset is not out of the question.
Potential star: Alexander Chadov
Alexander Chadov is only 17 years old, but he looks like a seasoned veteran compared to his teammates and most players in the Youth League. He leads his team in points and rebounds and shoots at a high percentage. If Chadov can continue developing, he’ll have a shot at joining the senior team at practice.
Complete roster: Nikita Sokolov,Ivan Pynko, Alexander Chadov, Artem Levakov, Egor Chepik, Vladislav Perevalov, Vladimir Byrdin, Vladimir Karpenko, Danila Veselov, Egor Shcherbinsky, Mikhail Byzov, Alexey Morozov